Robert Jeffress - The Divorce Question - Part 2
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. Few topics cause Christians more confusion than the issue of divorce and remarriage. The Bible is clear that divorce wasn't a part of God's plan for husbands and wives, but does God make a few exceptions? Well, today, we're going to explore the scenarios in which God permits divorce and remarriage. My message is titled, "The Divorce Question", on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
I believe that God prefers for there to be reconciliation. However, if your mate is engaged in hardhearted adultery, they will not repent. They are involved in multiple affairs and multiple sexual partners in a day of aids and sexually transmitted diseases, you may have no choice but to divorce. But the Bible does allow for divorce and remarriage in the case of adultery. Now, the second allowance for divorce and remarriage is found in 1 Corinthians 7. I hope you haven't lost your place.
Let's go back to 1 Corinthians 7. And that is in the case of desertion, desertion. Now, remember, what was going on in Corinth. A lot of people were being saved in Corinth. They were coming out of immoral decadent backgrounds. They were coming into the church and they started asking the question, "Now that we're Christians, how does our Christianity affect our sexuality? I mean, should we remain single if we're not married? What about if we're married, is sex wrong? Should we try to be celibate in the marriage relationship? Or what if we're married? And we became a Christian, but our mate is still an believer? We supposed to divorce that mate and go find a Christian"? Lots of questions about this issue of divorce and remarriage. And so Paul answers three typical cases that apparently the Corinthians had asked him about.
Here's case number one in verses 10 to 11. What about a believer who wants to leave the marriage? Now, let's go back and look at verses 10-11 and at that parenthesis, "But to the married I give instructions, not i, but the Lord that the wife should not leave her husband". Now, here's the passage. "But if she does leave, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And that the husband should not divorce his wife, and the same applies. If he does leave, he has to be remained unmarried or he is to go back to his wife, be reconciled to his wife".
Now, obviously, he is speaking for another reason other than adultery. Jesus has already talked about adultery being a permissible reason for divorce and remarriage. Paul has in mind another situation. He has in mind somebody who decides they want out of a marriage for something other than adultery. Maybe it's a case where there is an emotional abuse or physical abuse, or the person feels like his life is in danger. A number of situations that come to mind that a person wants out of a marriage.
Remember, God hates divorce. He doesn't want divorce. But Paul says, "If a believer leaves a marriage for any other reason other than adultery, if he leaves that marriage, he or she is to remain unmarried or be reconciled to his or her mate". That's what Paul is saying here. A believer who wants to divorce for some reason other than adultery. "Pastor, what about if that mate leaves and abandons me"? Well, that's a whole other story we're going to get to in a minute. But here, I'm talking about leaving for some other reason than adultery. You're to remain unmarried or be reconciled.
Now, here's case number two Paul deals with. A believer married to an unbeliever who wants to remain. Look at this in verse 12. "But to the rest I say, not the Lord," Paul said, "The Lord didn't address this subject, but I'm going to address it. That if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever and that unbeliever consents to live with him, he must not divorce her. And a woman who has an unbelieving husband and he consents to live with her, she must not send her husband away".
Here's the case. A husband or wife becomes a Christian in the marriage. The remaining mate is an believer. And let's say this new Christian wife says, "Being a Christian, such a wonderful thing. I'm meeting so many great men down at the First Baptist Church in Corinth. Man, it is great down there. I think I want to leave this non-Christian pagan mate that I have, and I want to go be married to a fine Christian man. Paul, isn't that what I need to do? After all, you keep teaching us over and over and over again, believers are not to be unequally yolked together with an unbeliever for what fellowship has light and darkness. So I think I'm going to divorce my mate. Isn't that all right, Paul"?
When Paul says, "You're not to be unequally yolked together with a unbeliever," he's talking about before you marry, don't intentionally marry an unbeliever. But here, the situation is what if you're already unequally yolked to somebody? Are you to leave? Paul says, no. If you're married to a non-Christian and that non-Christian wants to remain in the marriage, you must remain in the marriage. Well, why is that? Why would God tell me to do that? Look at this. This is so interesting. Verse 14, "For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband. For otherwise, your children are unclean, but now they are holy".
What does that word sanctified mean? It means to set apart. It means to make holy. Do you know how many Christians it takes in a home to make a Christian home? One. Just one. This takes one Christian in a home to make a Christian home. And what Paul is saying here is, "The reason you as a Christian are to remain in that marriage with a non-Christian is because of the influence you have over that non-Christian husband or wife, that influence you have over those children as well". You see, we get the idea that, "Oh man, if I'm a believer," now remember, this is after the marriage, not before. "If I'm this believer and I remain in this marriage with this non-Christian, I'm going to be defiled". No, no, you're not going to be defiled. That unbeliever is going to be sanctified.
Now, the word sanctified, it doesn't mean to become a Christian. Nobody's saying that that non-Christian husband or wife is automatically saved because you become a Christian. But what it is saying is your Godliness, your influence splashes over to them and it benefits them in a very positive way. Let me illustrate it this way. Let's say my wife, Amy receives a large inheritance, okay. She gets a big inheritance. Boy, I wish I had married rich. No, I don't. No. Let's say she gets a big inheritance. Now, that inheritance that Amy receives belongs to her. It is her. It's not mine. It's not given to me. It's not in my name. It's in her name.
But you know what? Even though that inheritance belongs to her, possibly, probably I'm going to get a little benefit from it. It may be residual benefit. It may be splash over benefit, but you know, she might buy some new lamps around the house and put them there with the inheritance she receives. I get to benefit from that. Or maybe she'll let me buy an extra carton of ice cream on Sunday nights, and I benefit from that. Or maybe she buys me a tie, or maybe she takes me on a trip. It's her money. It's her inheritance but I get some of the benefit from it. It's the same way in salvation. No, we receive salvation individually. It belongs to us. It doesn't automatically go to somebody else, but sometimes our relationship with Christ spills over. It benefits others in our home.
And that's what he's talking about here. And then he goes ahead and says, "For otherwise, your children are unclean, but now they are holy". What's this saying? It's just saying the same thing that the children in a home where there's one Christian parent receives a special benefit and they are much more likely to be saved in a home where there's a Christian present than in a home where there is no Christian present. So for that reason, we are to remain in the marriage.
Now, case number three, Paul addresses, a believer married to an unbeliever who wants to leave. Here was the situation going on in Corinth. Let's say a wife becomes a Christian. The husband is a non-Christian and he says, "I am so tired of all that God talk coming from you. I am tired of you going down to that church every time the candles are lit. I just hate it that you are always down there and trying to bring this stuff into our home".
In fact, Tertullian, one of the early church fathers wrote that some of those un-Christian, non-Christian men may have had a legitimate complaint about their wives going to church at nocturnal hours, he talks about because they were going overboard with the holy kiss that Paul commanded for Christians to greet one another with. And some of the Christian women take advantage of this probably did make their non-Christian husbands angry. But for whatever reason, here is a case where the wife has become a Christian or the husband's become a Christian. The non-Christian mate remaining says, "I'm tired of all of this stuff, I want out of the marriage".
Now, what are you to do in that kind of a situation? Here's what I've heard people teach. Why more than anything, God wants to preserve that marriage. And you make whatever compromise you need to make in order to keep that marriage intact. If that means not going to church anymore, quit going to church. It's not that important to go to church. If it means not tithing, quit tithing. That's not important. If your husband doesn't want you to talk about God around the children, don't worry about, just don't talk about God. Keep that marriage together.
Ladies and gentlemen, nothing could be further from the truth. I want you to listen to what God's word says, you ought to do if that husband or wife continues to threaten to leave your marriage. Look at verse 15. "If the unbelieving mate leaves, let him leave". Let him go. We used to have a saying, "Go ahead and leave and don't let the door hit you on the way out". That's what he's saying here. "If the unbelieving one wants to leave, let him leave. Furthermore, the brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases". The fact is you can't keep your unbelieving mate from leaving. If they want to leave, let them leave. And furthermore, he says, "You're not under bondage". What does that word mean? You are no longer restricted. You are no longer obligated to remain unmarried. You're free from the bonds of marriage.
By the way, he uses that same word in Roman 7:2 to refer to a person whose mate dies, that person's no longer under bondage. He's free to remarry. He'll say the same thing in verse 39 at 1 Corinthians 7, "You're no longer under bondage. If your mate dies, you are free to marry". Now, what is Paul's reasoning here? Why does Paul say it's okay to let them go instead of trying to hold on to that marriage? Notice his two reasons. First of all, he says, "God has called us to live in peace". Look at verse 15, "But God has called us to live in peace". God wants your family to be a family of peace. In Romans 12:18, Paul says, "If possible, so far as it depends on you, be it peace with all men".
Now, that's not always possible. But to the extent that it is, you ought to have your home be a peaceful home. God wants a home, a family that is free from rancor and anger and bitterness and bickering. And sometimes it's better just to leave the mate who's threatening to leave all the time, just let them leave. But there's a second reason. And that is Paul says, "There's no guarantee that your unbelieving spouse will ever be saved". Look at verse 16. He says, "For how do you know, o wife, whether you'll save your husband? Or how do you know, o husband, whether you will save your wife"?
Why in the world would you live in a lifetime of unpleasantness? Why would you compromise your beliefs about going to church, about giving your money to the Lord's work, about making God the priority of life? Why would you sacrifice all of that? And some hope of senior mates saved when you don't know if they're ever going to be saved or not. John macArthur says it this way, "Evangelism is not cause enough to maintain a marriage especially if the unbelieving partner wants to leave. The believer should let God follow that spouse's soul with the message of salvation and use whomever he will to take up the call of faith". The unbelieving mate wants to leave, let him leave. Now, people ask me all the time. "Well, pastor, that's an unbelieving mate who leaves. What if I'm married to a Christian who wants to leave? What if I'm a married to a Christian who says, 'I'm leaving the marriage'. What about me"?
Well, Paul doesn't address that specifically, but I would just have you think about this for a moment. The truth is you don't know whether your mate is saved or not. Jesus said very clearly, "Many, many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord'. And I'll say to them, 'depart from me. I never knew you'". Just because he makes a profession of faith, doesn't mean he's saved. And furthermore, if he abandons the marriage, if he forsakes the vows that he made to you and God, he's acting like a non-Christian. And Jesus said, "By your fruits, you shall know them". I personally believe that whether the person is a Christian or a non-Christian, if they are the ones who desert the marriage, divorce is permissible. You have no control over that. And therefore, remarriage is permissible as well.
There is third, a third exception to this, one man with one woman for life issue. It has nothing to do with divorce, but it does with remarriage, and that is in the instance of death. If your mate dies, what does the Bible say you're able to do? Look at verse 39 and verse 40, "A wife is bound as," ain't that an interesting way to view marriage? "A wife is bound as long as her husband lives, but if her husband is dead, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord". And then Paul adds his own view. "But in my opinion, she is happier if she remains as she is, and I think that I also had the Spirit of God in this". Paul was always a champion for staying single, but he also realized as we saw earlier, that marriage is the norm for most people.
Notice what Paul says, "If your mate dies, you're no longer under obligation. You can marry whomever you want to marry as long as they're Christian, as long as it's in the Lord". And may I add, not only are you permitted to marry whomever you want to marry, you're permitted to marry whenever you want to marry. In the last community where we served, we hadn't been there very long and people were continuing to die just like they do in our church and lots of funerals and so forth. And I kept hearing people talking about the three-month rule, the three month rule. And finally, one day I asked about, "What are you talking about the three-month rule"? Well, the three-month rule was the acceptable amount of time that must elapse before a single woman can bring a casserole to a widowed man. And you had to wait three months.
Now, let me tell you, if some woman in our community violated the three-month rule, everybody knew about it. Some of those ladies were on the doorstep ringing the doorbell before the funeral happened. They were anxious of it. Look, the Bible has no three-month rule. There's no two-month rule. There's no year rule. If your mate dies, you are free to marry whomever you want, whenever you want. And let me just say church, let's be gracious to people who've lost their mate. Let's don't impose any superficial restrictions or in some way say they are dishonoring their mate by marrying again. No, the Bible says they are free to remarry in the Lord. Now, we've covered a lot of ground tonight. I want to say, first of all, I realize there are some of you here tonight, there's some of you listening to this message by a variety of means who have been divorced and remarried perhaps for other than biblical reasons.
Let me say, and I think you saw it tonight. If that is the case for you. One thing you're not permitted to do is to divorce your mate and go back to your original mate. Deuteronomy 24 says very clearly, "That is not to happen". If you are listening tonight and you have divorced and remarried for other than biblical reasons, remember, divorce is not the unpardonable sin. You can ask for God's forgiveness. You might say, "God, I just never really knew. I never took the time to bother to see what your word said about this". Or maybe, "Lord, I knew what I should or shouldn't do, but I was so desperately lonely. I felt like I had to do this". But just confess that to the Lord. Ask for his forgiveness. And most importantly, be the best Christian husband or Christian wife you can be in this marriage from this point forward. But I'm speaking tonight not about those who are looking back, I'm talking about looking ahead.
What about this issue of divorce and remarriage in the church? I think we have to avoid two extremes. One extreme is libertarianism that says, "I can divorce and remarry for any reason at all. If I'm not happy, God wants me happy. And therefore, I'm going to divorce my mate and look for happiness". That's not allowed. It shouldn't be allowed. God has a standard that we as Christians are to uphold. To say, "I'm going to divorce for any reason at all," is an unbiblical standard. But the other extreme is legalism. And that is to say you cannot divorce or remarry for any reason at all. To say that divorce and remarriage is never permissible is just as unbiblical as saying divorce and remarriage are always permissible. Instead, what we need to do is to uphold God's standard, and God's standard is divorce is a forever commitment. However, in the cases of adultery and desertion, God permits, he doesn't command, but he permits divorce and remarriage.